New project explores how Guide Dogs and autonomous delivery robots interact on UK pavements
The charity Guide Dogs and Starship Technologies announce collaboration
London, December 19 – The charity Guide Dogs and Starship Technologies, the world’s leading provider of autonomous delivery services, have today announced the findings of a preliminary test to explore the impact that autonomous technologies will have on visually impaired people using guide dogs.
The collaboration marks the first time that autonomous delivery services, operating live on public pavements, have been tested out on the street in conjunction with working animals. The pilot project, conducted in Milton Keynes by Guide Dogs and Starship, saw guide dogs accompanied by their owners and/or trainers encounter Starship’s autonomous delivery robots in live scenarios where the robots operate on a daily basis. This included meeting from the front and rear, overtaking one another, and heading towards each other at a road crossing.
All of the dogs reacted calmly, most stopping before the robot approached, with no adverse reactions. The consensus was therefore that training for the guide dogs would probably be approached by treating the robots like any other obstacle encountered on the pavement. Starship’s robots have interacted with over 600,000 non-working dogs around the world and encountered similar results.
John Welsman, Policy Lead, Travel and Mobility at Guide Dogs, said: “Technology is constantly changing our environment and the way we live, so it’s vital that Guide Dogs as an organisation leads the way in shaping that environment for visually impaired people. We want all our guide dog owners and their dogs to feel confident about navigating the streets of the future, so we’re really pleased to have the opportunity to work with Starship on this initial project.”
Lex Bayer, CEO of Starship Technologies, said: “We believe that autonomous delivery can play an important role in supporting all individuals within communities by making people’s lives more convenient. Working seamlessly alongside residents is one of our number one priorities, and we are continually looking at ways to enhance our services by engaging with organisations such as Guide Dogs to do just this. We are looking forward to the next phase of the project.”
The project is set to be expanded in the future to include more extensive testing that will aim to discern the impact robots may have on people with a spectrum of visual impairments, including guide dog users.
With over 5,000 guide dogs on UK streets, Guide Dogs conducts research with a number of organisations to try and learn from and enhance the day-to-day experiences of visually impaired people as part of its Cities Unlocked initiative.
Starship Technologies was founded in July 2014 by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, with Lex Bayer joining as CEO from Airbnb in June 2018. To date, the company’s robots have covered over 125,000 miles in 20 countries and over 100 cities around the world, encountering millions of people along the way.
About Starship Technologies
Starship Technologies is revolutionising deliveries by using autonomous delivery robots. The robots are designed to deliver goods locally in minutes. The delivery robots have travelled tens of thousands of miles, met millions of people and have been tested in over 100 cities around the world to date. They drive autonomously but are monitored by humans who can take over control at any time. Starship was founded by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis and former AirBnB executive Lex Bayer is CEO.